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Concerns About Getting Kids to School Safely

How was your first day of school startup? When you compare your first day of school to today, is there an improvement in performance, optimization and stress-reduction? School buses have been rolling for a month or two now, depending on when your school started, and the topic of safety remains top of mind.

According to a recent study from the University of Michigan Health, 31 percent of parents with elementary school children reportedly worry about safe passage to and from school.

The National Poll on Children’s Health published by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital found that 48 percent of parents said their children walk through an area consisting of passenger vehicles picking up or dropping off students at their school campus, with 28 percent saying they think it is likely a child will get hurt near a passenger vehicle or bus drop-off area.

Last month, AAA reminded motorists to be cautious when approaching a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended. It noted that vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children and adolescents, and nearly one-third of child pedestrian fatalities occur during the afternoon and evening school commute time of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

Traveling to and from school on the school bus has the safest record of getting students where they need to go. However, over the past five years, 28 students were killed in the “Danger Zone” of bus stops, an average of almost six fatalities per year. Of these deaths, 65 percent occurred were while crossing the street.

According to the one-day illegal passing survey tallied by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), from 2019 over 107,000 of the nation’s 500,000 school bus drivers reported that 81,841 vehicles illegally passed their buses across the 31 states that participated. NASDPTS said those violations equated to 17 million violations occur-ring nationwide over a 180-day school year

How do we improve safety on and around the school bus? I recommend starting with parents, as they have the most vested interest in their child’s safety. The burden of school bus safety can’t fall solely on school transportation and the school bus driver.

Jeff Cassell from the School Bus Safety Company shared some recommendations to help mitigate against potential tragedy around the school bus. He suggested reducing the number of students who cross the street to and from the bus stop as much as possible, teaching students about safe crossing procedures, informing parents of the correct crossing procedures, making sure school bus drivers enforce the correct crossing procedures, and considering an extended stop arm on the bus to make sure passing cars stop. He also suggested engaging parents and students with these tips:

In the Morning:
Wait on the side of the road, at least 10 feet (five big steps) from the edge of the roadway. After the bus has stopped, look at the driver and await instruction.When the driver signals you to cross, walk to the edge of the roadway look left, right and left again. If clear, walk directly across the street. Do not run. If you are unsure about any moving vehicle, stay where you are and wait until that vehicle has completely stopped.

In The Afternoon:
When you exit the bus, walk 10 feet (five big steps) directly away from the bus. Turn left and walk to at least 10 feet (five big steps) ahead of the front of the bus. If the bus has a crossing gate, you should be beyond the end of the crossing gate. Look at the driver, when the driver signals you to cross, walk to the edge of the bumper and stop. Now, look left, right and left again. If all clear, look back at the driver. The driver will signal you to complete the cross-ing. Walk directly across and do not run.

For School Bus Safety week next month, let’s share these messages with everyone involved. If we follow these recommendations, we can prevent many of the crossing tragedies. As an industry, we always can improve because being 100 percent all the time isn’t easy. But if it can save a child’s life, it is well worth the effort. Keep your school bus drivers, kids and parents informed about safe behaviors around the school bus. I wish you a safe and successful school year!

Editor’s Note: As reprinted in the September 2022 issue of School Transportation News.

Related: Watch: School Bus Drivers Reminded About Railroad Safety
Related: NSTA’s Macysyn Discusses “Under-the-Hood” Waiver, Clean School Bus Program
Related: Regulating Student Transportation for Safety
Related: Brake Safety Week: Bendix Shares Tips on How to Prepare and What to Expect


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